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Craig's Book Club
Book Recommendations

Spotlight on: Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre edited by Tim Lieder


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Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre edited by Tim Lieder Tim Lieder (editor), Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre

Tim Lieder instantly gained my respect for producing the first anthology I've come across in some time that does not include its editor's own fiction between its pages. It's a practice that has become all-too-common these days, and any editors who do it are instantly suspect in my eyes. Essentially, they're just making sure they get a little extra added to their royalty checks. Thank you, Mr. Lieder and Dybbuk Press, for taking the high road, and for producing one of the more consistent modern anthologies.

The first impression that Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre made on me was through its cover art (by Amanda Rehagen): an obviously pissed-off poseable stuffed bear brandishing what is either a spatula or some sort of medieval fly swatter. This image is surprisingly good at setting the tone for the anthology: the circumventing of my expectations. Nothing was what I thought it would be, most of all the fact that not a one of these "11 stories of fear, obsession, and killer clowns" has a damn thing to do with a teddy bear cannibal massacre, in any sense of the phrase.

Once I got past that, however, I was ready to take on each in Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre story on its own merits. The first one, "Formaldehyde" by C.C. Parker, however, did not make much of an impression. It took Paul Haines to really get me ready for some entertainment with his "Doof Doof Doof". Its beginning doesn't show much promise, but it folds wonderfully into the rest of this revisionist fairy tale starring Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, and the Three Little Pigs.

Roberta Rogaw's "Peppercorn Rent" is a more pedestrian kind of tale, but its inclusion of lupine lady, a singer named Lime Green Jello, and an old land rule from the 15th century raises it above the rabble. Sadly, Tim Johnson's "Rats, Wrong Alley" is just one cliche piled on top of the last, all threaded together by stilted dialogue. "Brilliant Suspension" by Trina Shealy Orton has a great beginning -- or, rather, is a great beginning to a story that almost happens, and then doesn't. Conversely, Cameron Hill's "Hermetic Crab" is simply overflowing with imagination -- so much that it doesn't seem to know what to do with it all. When a man finds a magic hermit crab that speaks in a Scottish brogue (don't ask me!), he gets caught up in a fantastic battle of wits and spells. Somehow, this all works together, but it would be even better with a little more focus.

"Blue Elephants" by Jenifer Jourdanne is another type of story entirely. It doesn't belong in a horror anthology like Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre, and I'm not quite sure it's even a story -- though it has a narrative thread, however thin -- as it seems more like a journal entry. The line between truth and fiction is blurred, in any case, as the author's name is the same as the narrator's. Be that as it may, it is immensely entertaining and Jourdanne's voice is loud and clear. She may have a future as a memoirist alongside Augusten Burroughs, Chuck Klosterman, and Rachel Manija Brown.

"Something Funny is Going On," Brian Rosenberger's offering, effectively showcases the thought processes of a soldier, but in a war against what? Something closer to home than we'd like to think. And I think someone is going to have to explain to me what's going on in Michael Stone's "Clob" before I can make a judgment on it. It has something to do with a talking fish (what's with the anthropomorphic sea creatures?) and the intricacies of romance -- more than that, I can't say.

Beauty and the Beast becomes The Beast and the Beast in William Brock's poetically tragic "Berries Under Snow." But my absolute favorite has to be Robert Steussi's "Head Drippers," where a man doing psychological research comes across abominable experiments. It is like something out of The Twilight Zone and I was surprised when it ended so soon -- this idea could easily be expanded to novel length. Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre is an auspicious debut for Dybbuk Press. Editor and publisher Tim Lieder obviously has an eye for a good story and, more importantly, he knows when to make a genre exception for the sake of the book.


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